Kosovo fighters at mass funeral

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The Independent Online
THE TROUBLED Serbian province of Kosovo saw more violence yesterday even as thousands of mourners turned out for the funeral of 36 ethnic Albanians killed in a border clash with the security forces.

The burials came at the end of a week of violence, which has claimed the lives of at least 46 people. In the latest clash yesterday, Serbian sources said that two ethnic Albanians were wounded and four arrested after firing on a police patrol from a passing car.

About one thousand fighters of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) were among the several thousand ethnic Albanian mourners who went to the tiny village of Poljance for the funeral. The authorities said the men shot were KLA members trying to smuggle weapons into the province. Soon after that incident, six young Serbs were shot dead in a bar in the western city of Pec, and the Serbian deputy mayor of Kosovo Polje was killed.

Serbs in Kosovo yesterday demanded the return of the security forces withdrawn under the threat of Nato air strikes in October, to protect them. They ended three days of protest in the capital, Pristina, after an announcement that the Serbian Interior Minister would visit later today to hear their demands.

Western diplomats largely blame the rebel KLA, not the Serbs, for the increased tension in Kosovo. One official said it was clear the KLA had been moving steadily to take advantage of the Serbian withdrawal made under threat of Nato air strikes.